Dickson Despommier, professor at Columbia University, discusses vertical farming. He also talks about how the future of cities will look like.
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The Future of Vertical Farming Question: How would vertical farming be possible? By redesigning a building that’s totally transparent, and the best example of what I know that everybody can associate with at least in New York City is the new Apple building on Fifth Avenue. Just the entrance to the Apple Store is a remarkable space because everybody is sort of attracted to it going what is that? It’s a totally transparent, and yet it’s there, thing. Now if you could imagine five stories of that and a half of a city block, and beautiful plants of all kinds growing inside, and restaurants associated with them all the way around it, and green markets, come on. What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing is wrong with that picture, nothing. So that’s what the future could hold for us if we decided that this was a good idea that needs to be at least tried. This year the United States government set aside three-hundred billion dollars for Farm Bill, three-hundred billion dollars. And if you look at in that Farm Bill there isn’t one penny for alternate agricultural strategies. Not a cent. A lot of it is farm insurance. A lot of it is food aid. They have two billion dollars that’s earmarked for nothing. That’s just in case they need it. Well, I raised my hand but nobody saw it, because I could have used one billion of that, how’s that? Because if I had a billion dollars or even a half a billion, I could-- I actually might have that, so I’m sort of pre empting your next question to me and that is who could afford the see things if they’re going to be so expensive, right? But the fact is that the first one of anything is expensive. The first ten of anything is expensive. But the first maybe the hundredth one starts to be reasonably priced, and then I can take out my cell phone. It’s off by the way. I could show it to you, but imagine what a cell phone looked like ten years ago, right? It was clunky and big and had an antenna on it. And then everybody said I need to carry one with me and pretty soon you can’t see them anymore, almost. They’re remarkable. The laptop computer evolved in the same way. Now everybody affords them. I won’t say everybody because of course there are tremendous of poor people out there. Everybody should get the same amount of food though. Everybody should get the same amount of water. Why is that a privilege rather than a right of being born into the human race? It’s not a race by the way, because we’ve lost that one already. It’s actually a species. The human is a species, a single species that behaves like a hundred and however many nations there are in the United Nations. It behaves like that many different species. But it should behave like a single species in providing the basics to every one of them because why?—because I’ll tell you why. I think the reason that I think this will succeed is from all of the interest expressed from commercial sources now. Not domestic, you know, people that just come out of the woodwork and say “Great idea, can I work with you?” There are developers now that are serious about developing and building vertical farms within what we would call eco parks or eco cities. There are 12 of these things being planned throughout the world. It’s remarkable. Not just in Dubai and not just in Abu Dhabi, and not just in China although those are places. And in China and Korea, Los Vegas for instance has a real interest in this. That’s a desert community in case no one has noticed, although you’d never know that by going there. Phoenix has a big interest in this. Any large city that is stuck in the middle of the desert should have a huge investment in food. Now if you’re an Arab country you can afford, most Arab not all Arab countries, but if you’re a rich Arab country with lots of oil you trade oil for food and water and things like this. But they don’t even want to do that anymore. What they would want to do is be self-sufficient so they can sell everything and make a huge profit rather than havi
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